House of Representatives

Velasco leaves West PH Sea up to Duterte

Rambo Talabong
Velasco leaves West PH Sea up to Duterte

SPEAKER. House Speaker Lord Allan Velasco of Marinduque stands before lawmakers in the House plenary hall in Congress in Quezon City on Tuesday, October 13, 2020.

Photo by Darren Langit/Rappler

House Speaker Lord Allan Velasco says the West Philippine Sea 'is purely a concern that should be best left to the executive department'

House Speaker Lord Allan Velasco took a step back from discussing the West Philippine Sea issue, saying it should be left with the executive department, which is overseen by President Rodrigo Duterte.

“I strongly feel that the WPS issue is purely a concern that should be best left to the Executive Department, particularly the Department of Foreign Affairs and the Department of National Defense,” Velasco said in a statement sent to reporters on Friday, May 7.

This comes after consecutive weeks of incidents in the West Philippine Sea, recently culminating with Duterte saying that he would throw away the historic 2016 Hague ruling victory down the wastebasket.

His fellow lawmakers slammed the President, while Velasco tried to explain for him. (READ: ‘Magpaka-Pilipino ka’: Lawmakers slam Duterte after Hague ruling comment)

“I believe that PRRD’s sentiments about the matter were already made clear during his speech before the United Nations General Assembly, where his audience was composed of world leaders and Heads of State: the Philippines is not surrendering its sovereign rights over the West Philippine Sea,” he said.

Velasco added: “Although I cannot speak for the President, I suspect that his more recent pronouncements were borne out of frustration, as he contemplates the very difficult task of balancing diplomatic relations, national interest, and economic recovery amidst an unprecedented global pandemic.”

But is it really just up to the executive?

While the executive has the power and mandate to enforce laws, Congress still has the oversight authority to ensure that the national government is properly enforcing laws and fulfilling its duties.

Congress can do this by scheduling hearings where they can ask officials from the executive branch about its decision and strategy in asserting the country’s sovereign rights over the West Philippine Sea.

While there have been calls for probes at the Senate and at the House, no hearings have been scheduled. A majority of members in Congress are allies of Duterte, who is currently pursuing warmer relations with China. – Rappler.com

Rambo Talabong

Rambo Talabong covers the House of Representatives and local governments for Rappler. Prior to this, he covered security and crime. He was named Jaime V. Ongpin Fellow in 2019 for his reporting on President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs. In 2021, he was selected as a journalism fellow by the Fellowships at Auschwitz for the Study of Professional Ethics.